Monday, June 4, 2012

Elle's Story

Let me start by saying that my personality is one that internalizes everything and when I THINK of the memories from ICA (Immaculate Conception Academy) I immediately recall all the emotions I was feeling at the time. Negative experiences tend to be more dominant, yet I would describe my 3 years at Immaculate Conception Academy as Heaven and Hell - there was nothing in between, I alternated between incredibly happy and incredibly miserable.
First I would like to say that I loved the exposure to an international setting. Formation-wise I learned a lot about character and human values. I think my ability to see the good in everyone I meet stems from the knowledge I have of personalities and living in close quarters with different types of people and cultures. 
Second, as we would all agree, the education, or at least the teachers themselves, were phenomenal! In my opinion, I think our teachers were an example of a different femininity: intellectual, free, strong personalities, wives and mothers and strong Christians. Quite healthy to be around!
Third, my biggest challenge in coping with RC/LC was that my gut was right all along and I allowed myself to be duped. I never liked Fr Maciel, never understood his letters, why he was glorified, why we meditated on his heart and mind, but regardless of my misgivings, I hopped on that bandwagon. I questioned norms and practices but I believed when I was told it was God’s Will. Which now takes me to my major beef and this is where personality comes into play. How dare anyone take underage, impressionable girls out of house and home and impose ARBITRARY, thoughtless practices and tell them it is God’s Will? Mixing eternal salvation and dish washing? I truly felt that God’s love for me and my self worth were in exact congruency with the responsibilities I had been given. Clearly, not the right environment for anyone that tends toward scrupulousness. I never acted out, I rarely disobeyed, my motivation was completely on guilt. If Christ died on the cross for me, shouldn’t I suffer as well?
Here is a little more detail of my story…I was a Precandidate from 2000-2003, As a spiritually sensitive individual, I ate up everything that was told to me, every standard, every norm etc. I “drank the kool-aid” so to speak or rather chugged it. From the young age of 15, I was always told that I would be a great member to the third degree (consecrated) and I was made class leader, team leader, sent on retreats etc. I'm sure the responsibility was given to me because it was easy to see I was putty. I would do whatever was asked of me, and if I couldn't do it, I felt like a failure and internalized everything. My senior year after a class trip to Mexico, I realized that I needed to make my own decisions and I would not get consecrated because it was someone else's wish for me. In Spiritual Guidance I said, "I think God wants me to go home." I was told to not make a decision so soon, continue to pray etc. I was so SOO nervous about this because I thought that if I went home without "approval" that it was disobedience, I would be damned to hell, turn away from my vocation, Rich Young Man, all that jazz. Another important thing to note was that my body could not function on its own, I was seeing a GI specialist to figure out why I had such violent heartburn, after the endoscopy I was diagnosed with GERDS and I was given the best medication available, and the doctor said most of his patients feel 90% better in three weeks. I was following every recommendation on the pamphlet, I was sleeping on bricks in the sense that my bed was elevated to a 30 degree angle, I ate snacks during the day and not meals to help with my digestion, I eliminated coffee, gum, ham and chocolate (yes chocolate!?!?!?!?). Meanwhile back to PC life, more Spiritual Guidance, more prayer, more me worrying about my life and God's plan and entertaining the possibility that maybe misery is what God wants for me. Days before graduation, I finally got the OK I was looking for in Spiritual Guidance, sorta..."If you think God wants you to go home I cannot stop you, but I see nothing impeding you from the consecrated life...and if you go home and realize it is not for you, you can come back to the candidacy" If I could hit the rewind button 3 times in my life, I would use it then and have so many colorful things to say. "You see nothing impeding me? How about that fact that I can't eat a meal without stomach bile being launched into my throat? How about I cry every time I'm corrected because I feel like a disappointment to God? Maybe the idea that I have no self esteem would be an impediment? Later I told one of the other consecrated of my plans and she was joyful and hugged me.  It was such a relief - I felt more comfortable with my decision and less like I had turned my back on God. Side note, this same woman would always be there to give me the boost that I needed. One time she very descriptively had me picture my worries and one by one knock them down with my bazooka or something very Rambo-esque. It was so refreshing to be around her humor and to know that she understood that I DID try hard.  What I needed was help to be an 18 year old girl, to step outside the introspection and to laugh at myself versus encouraging me to nitpick at my every behavior.
Finally going home, I thought was going to be an “apostle” and evangelize people, while working to afford college and try to live with my parents and family again. A topic for another day, but let’s just say I again felt like a failure and in some ways lived up to this expectation.  In my parents’ eyes I left at 15 and came how 3 years later still 15. We weren’t a good combination. By the way stomach ailments were gone within 2 weeks, and the doctor said it was "lifestyle" induced. I felt very lost not being able to see God’s plan for me in black and white, literally in black and white…at ICA our schedule for the day was printed and posted and we were told it was God’s will. I didn’t know how to deal with boys, dating, coworkers, college, drinking, drugs, or conflicts with friends. What was I good at? What were my strengths? (Don’t worry I had my weaknesses down, I could recite them in LITANY format) How do I balance a checkbook? How do I know what I am doing is right if I am not asking permission? Friends that understood my situation lived 3,000 miles away and the phone calls helped me get through. I was proud of myself for trying to make it on my own, to rid myself of the structure and rigidity of the Precandidacy but the emotional and spiritual marks still existed (exist?) below the surface.
Everyone knows that high school is the coming of age era filled with the joys and anguish of self discovery. The path of our past is made of stones that cannot be moved or altered (although by God I wish Doc Brown and his flux capacitor would take me back) all we control are the present and future and there with limitations. I could have been pregnant at 16, done drugs in high school, run away from home etc but I don’t know that. Instead I went to a small, all girls high school that I can’t describe to anyone unless they went there and I can’t think about without strong waves of mixed emotions. Many changes have been made to accommodate a healthy growing atmosphere for young girls but I don’t trust a well once poisoned. My way to self-actualization has been to leave aside the scruples, the ideologies and the religious agenda. I have been too disillusioned by Catholic leaders, leaders in Regnum Christi, friends and family members to give a sh*t anymore. Like all humanity, I believe that my purpose is to love and be loved…and I will have to do that in my way and in my time. I have to believe that God knows his sheep, that he knows me and wants the best for me even if isn’t very “close” to Him presently. I won’t be guilted into His arms.
Thank you to all that have taken the time to read my thoughts that I have never vocalized or said outside of a small circle. Maybe in some way it has helped you to identify in your life journey, I wish you the best and safe travels!

1 comment:

  1. Girls, I have to choose a spot to put this "comment" under, but it is for all of you. Two great resources (both by devout Protestants, actually) are:

    "Boundaries: When to say YES, When to say NO, to Take Control of Your Life" (by two Protestant psychologists, Henry Cloud and John Townsend--I don't agree with everything in the book, but it helped me greatly with seeing 1) you can feel "guilt" because your guilt radar is off, due to the fact that you were malformed; 2) children and young adults, as they are formed in families, MUST have the freedom to say "No" and to have that "No" respected (there may be consequences for that "No," but that doesn't mean a child doesn't have the freedom to react in the way he or she decides to act.

    "Battlefield of the Mind" (Joyce Meyer). She's awesome. Absolutely rooted in scripture. (She was sexually abused by her father when she was a child, and had many wounds for which she needed healing.) Quote from the beginning of the book:

    "I'm sure that you are reading this book right now because you were led to it. You too may be having problems in this area. If so, I encourage you to pray in Jesus' name. By the power of His blood, come against all evil spirits that hinder Godly thoughts. If you find your mind is sluggish and unable to believe, then speak against "mind-binding spirits." Pray this way not just one time, but any time you experience difficulty in this area.

    The devil never runs out of fiery darts to throw against us when we are trying to go forward. Lift up your shield of faith and remember James 1:2-8 which teaches us that we can ask God for wisdom in trials and He will give it to us and will show us what to do.

    I had a problem, a fiery dart I had not encountered before. But God showed me how to pray, and I was set free.

    You will be too."